Sermon – Jonah 1.17-2.10 (Easter Sunday -2021)

Rescue to Rescue

Exordium: The women went to the tomb expecting to see a dead Jesus. They went to the tomb with mournful mood, to anoint the lifeless body of Jesus with spices. If there was no surprise for those women that Easter morning, we, too, would have reason to remain in mournful mood today and every day. And there would be nothing for you here today. It would be pointless to be here. But Christ is indeed risen! The women saw Him. The disciples saw Him. 500 at one time saw the Lord alive. They touched his body. They spoke with Him. They ate with Him. Christ is our living Savior! Thus the early church began gathering. There was reason to gather, because Christ lives, and there is salvation from sin, death, and hell. They met on Sunday, the day of our Lord’s resurrection. And so we gather here today, and each Lord’s day… with mourning, not over the death of our Lord, but over our sin. But also with great joy, because our Lord lives, and He is with us, and His resurrection confirms the saving gospel message He has for you: You are forgiven! You are delivered from death! Jesus lives! Alleluia! With joy we sing the exordium hymn..,  He Is Risen Glorious Word.

Exordium Hymn:

17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

NKJ Jonah 2:1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly.

 2 And he said: “I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, And He answered me. “Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice.

 3 For You cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the floods surrounded me; All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.

 4 Then I said,`I have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’

 5 The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head.

 6 I went down to the moorings of the mountains; The earth with its bars closed behind me forever; Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God.

 7 “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; And my prayer went up to You, Into Your holy temple.

 8 “Those who regard worthless idols Forsake their own Mercy.

 9 But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”

 10 So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear heirs of Christ’s resurrection,

Our reading from Jonah sure gives a graphic picture of what happened to Jonah. The fish vomited Jonah from its belly on the third day. It was the Word of God that caused this to happen. “The LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” God speaks His mighty Word, and the fish has no choice, but must give up the contents of its belly.

Jesus used Jonah’s expulsion from the belly of the fish as a type of His resurrection from the dead. Jesus was preaching law to the Pharisees for their empty words and the fruits of their unbelief. Rather than repent, they rebelled against Christ, resented Jesus for speaking authoritatively. And in hatred challenged Jesus to back up His words with a sign. Jesus said that He will only give them the sign of Jonah. On the third day, He would be vomited from the belly of death.

Though Jesus connects His resurrection to Jonah’s return from the pit of the beast, there is a big difference. Jesus has power over death. Jonah did not.

We definitely see the helplessness of Jonah in his words that were recorded for us. Jonah knew what he had done. God had ordered Jonah to go to a foreign nation and preach the Word. Jonah was not willing. He went the opposite direction, hopped a ship and ran from God.

But as Jonah was running from God, God would not allow Jonah to remain separated from Him. The way that God restored Jonah to Himself was by first sending a storm that terrified the sailors of the ship. Jonah was convicted. He knew he was the reason for the storm. Jonah told them to cast him into the sea in order to be spared of the storm. They had no other options, and so they did. The storm calmed, and Jonah was sinking down in the depths of the sea.

And here are the thoughts of a drowning man who knew his guilt, and God’s judgment. Jonah said, “You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the floods surrounded me; All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.

God casted him in. The billows were sent by God. The waves that crashed down upon Jonah were God’s waves. It was God’s law that crushed Jonah. He knew his guilt. And we know our own. That is why we are here. We have run from God’s will which is written down for us in the Commandments. With our hands, our mouths, our eyes, our minds, and our hearts which God has made to do His will, we have sinned. We have run from Him to go our own way, obey our sinful desires, and to justify it with our mind.

We think of our sins, and the Law convicts us, and we see ourselves sink down beneath God’s righteous frown. We are crushed with guilt, and the law gives us no wiggle room to breathe. We have sinned. And when we think of the sicknesses, bad days, the loss of one sort or another that we have encountered in our lives, and all the trouble that we have gone through and all the trouble which is yet to come in our lives and we think, “I deserve this.”

We are helpless. We acknowledge our sins, which we ought to do, but that doesn’t help. We wallow in our guilt, and that doesn’t change a thing. No man, no works, no medicine, nothing we can do or produce can help. To use the words of helpless Jonah, “I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me forever.” Jonah tried to run away, but now he is trapped under the guilt of his sin. It was as though Jonah was in his tomb to face the consequences of his sin. So also, our guilt has bound us to our own tomb, and the eternal payment for our sins.

Jonah was helpless, but wasn’t hopeless, for there was life there in the pit. There was life in the belly of the fish. “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple.” This is a miracle wrought by God. For Jonah was running away. But the Lord did not abandon him. The Lord was after him. It was the Lord’s waves, the Lord’s billows, the Lord’s law that caused Jonah to see that he couldn’t run, but the Lord brought to remembrance in Jonah’s mind His mercy. The LORD is the only help to deliver him from the waters and from belly of the fish. The LORD is the only help to deliver him from sins and death.

The Lord came after Jonah and He comes after you with His grace and salvation, because He abandoned His Son on the cross. Jesus sank down beneath God’s righteous frown in our place. The waves of the law and the Father’s wrath crashed down on Jesus for us. None would save Him from the depths. The sinless one suffered the sinners death for us, so that God’s face may shine upon you with His grace and favor.

Of course that is not the end of it. If Jesus remained in the belly of the earth, it would have all been for naught. We would have nothing. But as the fish vomited up Jonah because of the Word that God spoke to the fish, death vomited up Christ, because of the divine might of the Word made flesh. Death could not hold Him. Jonah was helpless, but Jesus was not. He gave up His life, but He had authority to take it up again.

Jesus rose! He is alive! So we have hope! Run no longer, for Christ is risen! He is your help and salvation. He comes after you, bringing you into the richness of life with Him through baptism, nourishing you with His Spirit through His Word, and having communion with you through His Holy Supper.

Breathe easy and be at peace. Jesus, your Savior lives, and you have eternal life in Him. He has paid the price for your every sin. He has sunk every last one of them to the depths of the sea. He loves you and you are His. Nothing can separate you from His love, not the deepest depths of the sea, not the gravest of sins, not death. And there is no need to fear the belly of death, because its broken. There is a big hole there from when Jesus burst through its impenetrable walls. And we shall rise too from that hole when our Lord comes again to raise us to glory.

Thanks be to our risen Savior! Amen.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

Holy Week

Sermon – Matthew 27.62-66 (Easter Vigil – 2021)

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

62 On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate,

 63 saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said,`After three days I will rise.’

 64 “Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people,`He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”

 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.”

 66 So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard. (Matt. 27:62-66 NKJ)

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed,

Well, the chief priests and Pharisees remembered Jesus’ words. Did the disciples or the women who sometimes accompanied Jesus remember them? If you were there at the time, would you have remembered Jesus’ words?

Those words: “After three days I will rise.”

We didn’t see this hope among Jesus’ followers. We don’t hear any of them encouraging the rest saying, “Hey guys, Jesus said He would rise again on the third day. You remember who He is right. Shouldn’t we believe what He says? Let’s look for Him to come to us on Sunday.” Instead, they embalm Jesus assuming His body was remaining in the grave for the long haul. They were mourning in hopelessness, and hiding for fear of the Jews.

We know that at least the enemies of Christ remembered Jesus’ words. It’s not that they believed the words Jesus spoke. Jesus gave plenty of evidence for the truth of His Words. Signs, even signs which showed His power over death, testified to the truth of Jesus words and His divinity. His words are trustworthy. However, they despised Jesus. They would not believe the words. Despite what their eyes had seen they believed that Jesus was a deceiver, a seducer of the people to get them to follow Him.

Jesus proclaimed Himself the Messiah. His works testified of this. He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises, He is the Anointed One of God promised in the Old Testament. This the scribes and Pharisees called the first deception. But they killed the Christ. In Jesus’ death they believed that they put that “deception” behind them. Though, that first “deception” would survive if the second “deception” came to pass.

What did they fear was the second deception? Well, Jesus also proclaimed that He will rise on the third day. If His body was missing from the tomb, this would go to show that His word is true. They feared that somehow the body of Jesus would go missing, of course they didn’t believe that Jesus would rise from the dead, but feared that some might steal His body away in order that it may appear that Jesus rose again. They imagined the disciples to be in on this deception. They thought that the disciples would try to steal the body so that it would appear that Jesus rose from the dead.

But why would the disciples seek to deceive? What did they have to gain? We hear that 11 of the 12 disciples died as martyrs. If Jesus’ resurrection was a deception that they were perpetrating, why would they die for it? Would they really die for something they knew was a lie?

There was no conniving going on among Jesus’ disciples. There were no efforts of deception. But there was no faith either.

So Pilate told the scribes and Pharisees to go ahead, take the soldiers and guard the tomb, and not guard the tomb haphazardly, but as secure as they were able. The stone over the mouth of the tomb was sealed, so that there could be no tampering with it. The guards wouldn’t dare allow anyone to break that seal.

And little did the scribes and Pharisees know that by providing this guard, they have only added to the firm certainty that Christ is risen. The guards were set there to prevent deception, but their presence only shows the truth of Christ’s resurrection. There was no deception. Christ’s body was not stolen. It couldn’t have been with the guards there. Neither did His body remain lifeless in the tomb. Jesus miraculously rose from the dead. The guards were not overcome by soldiers, but by angels. And the angels didn’t come to steal the body, but to show that the tomb was empty. That Christ is risen!

If only the disciples remembered the words of Jesus, and not only remembered them like the Pharisees did, but unlike the Pharisees to also believe in His words.

If only they would have believed those words, so that in the midst of their sadness that Jesus, their Lord, died, they could have also have waited with hope that He would rise again.

If only we could remember and believe the words of Christ as we wait for the resurrection of the dead. We fear as though death has won. We are despondent as though all is lost. We worry as though God is dead and is not able to help or save. We refuse to let go of our guilt as though Christ didn’t rise, and His atonement fell short.

But the soldier guard, the angels, and Christ Himself confirms that Christ is indeed risen! They teach us to remember God’s Word and not to doubt it. And so we can have full confidence and joy that death is defeated and life eternal is ours. Our Savior is risen, and we are His, how can we say all is lost. He who gave His life for us, that we may be His, lives and cares for you. The Father who raised His Son from the dead confirms that forgiveness has been won. His wrath was spent, and there is no more for you who are in Christ, but only grace towards you in Christ. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

Holy Week

Sermon – Leviticus 16.15-22 (Good Friday – 2021)

Pardon to Pardon

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

15 “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, bring its blood inside the veil, do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat.

 16 “So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

 17 “There shall be no man in the tabernacle of meeting when he goes in to make atonement in the Holy Place, until he comes out, that he may make atonement for himself, for his household, and for all the assembly of Israel.

 18 “And he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD, and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar all around.

 19 “Then he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, cleanse it, and consecrate it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.

 20 “And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place, the tabernacle of meeting, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat.

 21 “Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man.

 22 “The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.

These are Your Words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed,

We saw throughout the Lenten season how particular sections of the Old Testament Scripture point forward to Christ and His saving work. We get a look at another one here that gives us a very vivid picture. It describes the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus from two different angles of the one saving work. We see it in the two goats.

Two goats were chosen. Lots were cast to determine which one was for the LORD and the other for Azazel.

The goat that was for the Lord is the goat that would be used for the burnt offering. This offering showed that sin requires death. It takes a life. God said that the day that you eat of the tree which you are not to eat, you shall die. Sin requires a life, not just bodily death, but death that is separation from God, who is the fount of goodness and love. Well, we ate of the tree in Adam and Eve, and we have sinned, as Adam and Eve. We have the same greedy eyes that see what our hearts desire and it looks good. We wish to be like God, rather than to be subject to our Creator. We make our own law, follow our own path, we do what is right in our own eyes, to disobey God and obey our passions. And so we act selfishly, we put ourselves first, we lust, we greedily chase after the treasures of the world, we get our priorities out of whack. These sins cost a life, our life. For those of the Old Testament, a goat was given. Its lifeblood is shed, and it is sacrificed, as it is burnt on the altar and the smoke rises to God. Its life is taken in place of sinful man, and thus through this sacrifice, the people are pardoned. Yet it is not the sacrifice that earns this forgiveness, but this sacrifice saved the Old Testament believers because God’s Word was connected to that sacrifice and the sacrifice points forward to that once for all sacrifice that would really atone for the sins of the world.

Christ is the fulfillment of this sacrifice. In love, He willingly offers His life to God. Whereas the goat of the burnt offering is offered to God on the altar in the tabernacle or Temple, Jesus is brought out of the Holy City, away from the Temple and gives His life on the altar of a torturous cross. So there on the cross He doesn’t enter the Holy of Holies made of wood and stone and fabric built by the hands of men, but He goes before God in the heavenly Temple offering His blood and His life to atone for your sins. Scripture says, “For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another… but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” (Heb 9:24,25,26,28).

He gives His life for ours–His divine, righteous life without spot or blemish for our life, so that sin and the death that sin requires is answered for, and thus life is won for us.

Another aspect of Jesus saving work on the cross is typified by the other goat, the goat that was for Azazel.

Azazel is a hard Hebrew word, and there are many different theories as to what it means, one common one that we see in numerous translations is scapegoat. And that’s a really fitting one. A scapegoat is simply the goat that escaped. Nowadays we say that a scapegoat is someone who takes the blame for something.

Aaron placed his hands on the head of the goat, and he confessed the sins of the people of Israel upon the goat, transferring their sins upon the it. That goat takes the blame, and is driven out from among the people and from God’s presence into the wilderness.

Jesus is our scapegoat. He has taken all of our sins, transferring every one of them upon Himself. Therefore “He who knew no sin, became sin for us.Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed” (Is 53:4-5). He becomes our sin. And He is driven away outside of the city bearing our sins. But more than that, He is driven away from God’s presence. God, His Father abandons Him, and this is literally what hell is. And in the absence of the Father’s love and goodness, with only the wrath of God to be felt, Jesus cried out, “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachtani.” And since He has done that, your sins are removed from you! They have been placed on Jesus, and they have been taken away. As far as the east is from the west, so far has Christ taken your sins from you.

O what sadness there is in this night. For it is not a couple random goats that are sacrificed, but our soul’s great Friend, the righteous and holy Son of God is treated the way we sinners should be treated. He suffers hell. He is killed. And we see how awful our sins are, for what tremendous cost there is to atone for them and to remove them from us!

But also rejoice, because in such unfathomable love for us, He willingly does this. And in His suffering and death we are redeemed from sin, death, and hell. In His gory death, He crushes the serpent’s head that we may share in the spoils of His glorious victory.

So, in this rejoicing, we give our lives as a sacrifice of thanks and praise to Him who sacrificed Himself to make us His own redeemed people. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

Holy Week

Sermon – Exodus 24.1-11 (Maundy Thursday – 2021)

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Now He said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar.

 2 “And Moses alone shall come near the LORD, but they shall not come near; nor shall the people go up with him.”

 3 So Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the LORD has said we will do.”

 4 And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel.

 5 Then he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD.

 6 And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar.

 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.”

 8 And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.”

 9 Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel,

 10 and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity.

 11 But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank. (Exod. 24:1-11 NKJ)

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed,

Everyone has a relationship with God. Either the relationship is having Him as our loving Father, or having Him as our vengeful judge.

We do not enter into a loving relationship with God on our own terms. Rather it is on His terms, and really, it is God who does it. And we see a perfect example of this in our text from Exodus today.

God, here, is establishing a covenant with His people. It is what we call the Sinaitic covenant since it was established at Mt. Sinai, or the Mosaic covenant, since God established this covenant through Moses. We should rightfully understand what is going on.

Moses read the Book of the Covenant, the Law, and the people said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.” Their obedience didn’t bring them into a relationship with God.

Rather, it is by grace that God establishes this covenant with the Israelites. God had chosen Israel by His grace. Moses said, “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt”.

Therefore the people agreed to the terms of the covenant by faith in God’s grace. Their agreement to be obedient to the Law is the fruit of their faith, since good works must follow faith. Good works don’t save, and they don’t bring us into a relationship with God, but they are the fruit of those who are saved and in a loving relationship with God.

And then what ratified, or put this covenant into effect, is what follows. This covenant relationship they entered into with God is possible only through blood. Moses built an altar and with the help of the young men of Israel, he offered sacrifices. He offered a burnt offering. The burnt offering is the great shadow of Christ’s atonement. This is the sacrificial victim that is slaughtered pointing forward to the Messiah who would come to be slaughtered to answer for the sins of the people. Its blood is shed pointing forward to the shed blood of Christ that restores sinners to a relationship to God. Then there was also the peace offering, or the fellowship offering. This offering was partially burned, and partially eaten. It emphasized the fellowship the people had with God on account of the blood that had been shed for atonement.

Through the blood and death of the sacrifice, the Israelites are brought into a relationship with God. The blood establishes this relationship. The blood is splattered on the altar to prepare it for the service of the Lord. And then Moses splattered the blood upon the people with a hyssop branch covering them in the blood that pictured the atoning blood of Christ. With that blood they are rendered clean to serve God their Father. David understood the meaning of this blood, when he said, “purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean” (Ps 51:7).

It is only through the blood and death of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that we sinners are brought into a loving relationship with God. Our works do not do it, but through Christ whom we hold by faith alone, that we are forgiven, redeemed, are made God’s dear children, and are rendered clean to serve our Father, so that we can say in faith and gratefulness for His grace, Lord all that you command, we will do.

Yet we are tempted to say, “I’ll be in this loving relationship with you, O God, but I don’t care to do what you command.” We do not set the terms. Though our works do not bring us into the relationship with God, a refusal to obey God shows that our faith is dead, and shows that we reject the blood of Christ that bought us from wicked works.

Yet, God does not withhold His hand of grace from You, dear baptized. The hyssop branch is at the ready, and the blood of Christ that was shed for your atonement will still cover you.

But now, we get to the part that deals specifically with the theme for today. We get a remarkable sight at the end of our reading. God orders the prophet, Moses, the priests, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the governmental leaders, the 70 elders, to come up on the mountain and eat with Him. What a fantastic sight! “They saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity.

This is the throne of God, where He sits in glory. We get other images of this in Scripture. Ezekiel spoke of what he saw above the cherubim that appeared to him. He said, “The likeness of the firmament above the heads of the living creatures was like the color of an awesome crystal, stretched out over their heads…. Above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it” (Ezekiel 1:22,26). And John saw a similar sight of heaven which he recorded in Revelation. “Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal” (Rev 4:6).

So when the men went up Mt. Sinai to eat with God, they entered the threshold of heaven. Here heaven and earth converged. God was present with them. He didn’t lay His hand upon them as an angry judge over sinners. He was not present in the terrifying way, as He had been earlier when His glory was manifested in fire, smoke, thunder, and lightning. Rather He softened His glory, that they beheld His glory and enjoyed fellowship with Him in the meal. We can’t help but wonder if what they ate was the fellowship sacrifice.

As magnificent this meal of the Old Covenant was, it does not compare in power and magnificence as the meal of the New Covenant: the Lord’s Supper. For what is eaten is not the body of a beast which was only a shadow of Christ, but rather it is the true body and blood of Christ that is given us to eat and drink. Jesus said, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Mt 26:28). This is the very body and blood that has redeemed you, covers you, cleanses you, and brings you into a blessed relationship with your heavenly Father.

When we come to this altar to receive this meal, it truly happens, as it happened on Mt. Sinai, heaven and earth converge. We are in the presence of God’s glorious throne, with angels and archangels and all the hosts of heaven, though that glory is hidden, and we enjoy a fellowship meal with our God.

We examine ourselves, 1. I must recognize I am a sinner. My fellowship with God is not based upon my works, for my sins separate me from God, thus I repent of these sins. 2. I must recognize that my blessed relationship with God is based upon the blood of Christ which atoned for my sins. 3. We must recognize that this fellowship meal is the true body and blood of Christ, which He sacrificed for my sins, and this body and blood grants me forgiveness. 4. Finally, we desire to amend our ways, and say, “All you command, we will do.” We strive to live godly lives in love towards God and towards our neighbor. We look for the strength to do this in the body and blood of Christ, and there we find forgiveness when we fail.

And so then we heed the invitation of Christ, who is both our host and our meal. And in faith we come to the threshold of heaven to eat before His sapphire throne, the fellowship meal, as His dear redeemed people, in a blessed relationship with Him through His blood. This is a foretaste of heaven! Thanks be to God for this blessed Communion! Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.


Sermon – John 6.1-15 (Lent 4 – 2021)

To Be Citizens of His Kingdom

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, by Your Son You fed five thousand men in the wilderness with five loaves and two fish, showing that you nourish our bodies: We beseech You to nourish also our souls with Your gospel, that by the redemption of Your Son, we may be freed from sin, and be led with believers from every nation to our eternal inheritance by Your merciful Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

Grace to you and peace, from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.

 2 Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.

 3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.

 4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.

 5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”

 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.

 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.”

 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him,

 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”

 10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.

 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.

 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.”

 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.

 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

 15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.

These are Your words, heavenly Father, sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed,

On Wednesday night, we focused on Jesus as King. He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament kingly office. I’ll touch on that briefly.

But, today we will consider how Jesus becomes our king.

One of the themes of Jesus’ preaching was the kingdom of God. The first words that Mark records Jesus saying is, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel” (Mk 1:15). Many of his parables began with, “The kingdom of God is like…” or “The kingdom of heaven is like…”

Jesus is the king of this kingdom. The angel Gabriel announced to Mary, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:32-33). Plus, Jesus admits that He is king before Pilate. And Pilate was trying to determine if Jesus was a threat to Caesar’s rule.

Jesus is the King and He preached the kingdom of God. John’s gospel reading only speaks about the miracle Jesus performed, but Luke’s accounts speaks about what Jesus was doing before He multiplied the food. Luke records, “the [multitudes] followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing.” He preached to them the kingdom of God.

After their bellies were full, they wanted Jesus as king, not understanding the kind of King Jesus is and what is the nature of His kingdom. Nor did they know the way of entrance into His kingdom. And so they sought to make Jesus king by force. But what did Jesus do? He did not let Himself be seized by them, and escaped to a mountain to avoid their plans.

It is clear that the crowd’s intentions to make Christ king were foolish. Yet there are many who attempt to seize Christ and make Him their king.

They claim Christ and claim citizenship in his kingdom. They might think that entrance is through external ways. Entrance into His kingdom is different than entrance into kingdoms of the world. To become a citizen of state you take residence in the state. To become a citizen of a nation you, by law, must either be born of a citizen, or go through the naturalization process and make an oath of citizenship before officials. But these methods are external. They do not take into consideration what lies inside, what is in the heart of the person. But Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual, heavenly kingdom, a kingdom of hearts and souls.

Outwardly, a person may regularly attend church. He may know and defend the doctrines of Scripture. He may be a fierce worker or defender in Church, fighting for the freedoms of Christians in the legislature, he might go to war for the freedom of religion, he might go to impoverished communities with church missions to do all sorts of works of charity and mercy. Yet, inwardly, if he remains impenitent, allowing sin to remain and rule him, if He does not believe that Jesus is his Savior from these sins, he remains outside of Christ’s kingdom. In such a heart, Christ has not established His throne, where He rules, guides, and sustains with His gospel. Such a person, though outwardly may seem to be among the number of believers, but they are like those about whom Jesus spoke, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ and then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!

They may want to be a citizen of the kingdom. They seek to seize Jesus and make Him their King. They claim Him as their own, and call themselves Christians. But all their external works come to nothing. They cannot enter the kingdom in such a way. Christ will not allow Himself to be seized by them.

And lest you become secure in your sins and take for granted your Christian faith, consider yourselves. Do you seek to enter the kingdom and seize Christ by your external works? You may deny yourself, do much for the church, stand side by side with Christians, yet you still live as children of the world, do not imagine yourself to have Christ as your King. If you do not have a heart where the sinful flesh is crucified and Christ rules, then you have nothing to show for your works. You may even claim to be baptized, hear the sermon, and take communion, but if you do not receive these gifts with a repentant heart that believes Christ’s forgiveness and salvation offered in these gifts, you are swine trampling on pearls. You are still outside. Christ will not be seized by you.

How frightening it is to be outside the kingdom, still under sin’s bondage and God’s wrath! But “do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32). Isn’t this what Jesus taught you to pray? “Thy Kingdom come.” He taught His Church to pray that because He wants you to have the kingdom. He wants you to be seized by Him with repentant and believing hearts.

He says, “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent…”. See your poor condition. Pray the Holy Spirit that He may help you see it more clearly. The people in the wilderness with Jesus were sick and hungry. They needed health and food. Their need was external. They easily saw that. Rather, see the internal need, which is not as easily noticed. See the sin that rules in your hearts the sin that hides and stubbornly sticks in the corners of your heart. Our hearts in their fallen state are deathly sick and empty of righteousness. Acknowledge it before the Lord.

And then He says “believe the gospel.” Believe the good news. What good news it was for the sick multitude that Jesus had health to give them. What good news it was for the hungry that Jesus had bread and fish for them. They only knew their need, and trusted in Jesus to provide for them. Yet, this didn’t give them the kingdom, nor did this make Jesus their King, because their minds were only on the external things, the temporal needs of their bodies.

But see the good news of who Jesus is. Jesus’ is the Physician for the desperate and sick soul, and He is the Bread of Life for the sinful soul who hungers for righteousness.

Jesus is the Physician of your soul. By His stripes you are healed. By His suffering and death, your sin is atoned for. Through faith in Christ, your heart is cleansed of every sin. So see your need, and see how He gave up His life to be your Savior. Trust in Him to heal you. Bring before Him your sins, even those hidden faults, and those stubborn sins that don’t easily stay away, and He removes them all from you! You are cleansed. You are healed!

He is the Bread of Life. In Him is full forgiveness, and the righteousness that justifies you before the Father. You poor souls, who see the hunger of your hearts, partake of the Bread of Life through faith. He gives you eternal life in His kingdom.

That is how He desires to be seized: through faith in Him. We bring nothing to the table. We do not seize Him by our works. But simply recognize your need in repentance, and believe in Christ who is your help and salvation. He is the Great Physician and the Bread of Life. He gave up His life unto death that He may be your gracious King, and that you may dwell in His kingdom.

And He gives you His Word, baptism, and the Sacrament that inwardly faith may be created and sustained, so that faith may from those same means of grace receive Christ with His healing and righteousness.

And thus Christ, your Physician and Bread of Life, comes to you through the gospel, is received by faith, and thus enters into your hearts, to establish His throne, rule in it as a king. And thus His rule inwardly, will also show through externally, as you live in this world, not as children of this world, but as children of God and citizens of His kingdom of righteousness and life. God grant this to us. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.


Sermon – Luke 11:14-28 (Lent 3 – 2021)

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, You have sent Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to take upon Himself our flesh, that He might overcome the devil, and defend us poor sinners against the adversary: We give thanks to You for Your merciful help, and we beseech You to attend us with Your grace in all temptations, to preserve us from carnal security, and by Your Holy Spirit to keep us in Your Word in Your fear, that we may be delivered from the enemy, and obtain eternal salvation; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen

Grace to you and peace, from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

14 And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute. So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled.

 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”

 16 Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven.

 17 But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls.

 18 “If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub.

 19 “And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.

 20 “But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.

 21 “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace.

 22 “But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils.

 23 “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

 24 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says,`I will return to my house from which I came.’

 25 “And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order.

 26 “Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

 27 And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!”

 28 But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

These are Your Words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth, Your word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed,

Can you identify the works of the devil in our text? One was obvious. A demon possessed a man in our text. The crowd thought they spotted another work of the devil. But there isn’t any possible way for the crowd to have been more wrong. They accused Jesus of doing the work of the devil. It is a ridiculous and blasphemous claim that Jesus was in league with the devil.

There are two ways in which the devil is working in our text. We’ll first talk about the more obvious one, the demon who possessed a man and prevented him from speaking. Demon possession was a common thing that Jesus encountered during His ministry. Jesus exercised His authority casting out many demons. He also sent out His disciples and the 70 to go preach the kingdom of God, and when He sent them He gave them the authority to cast out demons.

Many dismiss demon possession as something that only happens in sci-fi movies. Materialists believe that demon possession was simply an explanation that a more primitive people used for conditions that couldn’t explain medically. But we know that the Bible is reliable and true, and if the Bible says that Jesus cast out a demon, we know Jesus cast out a demon.

We know this. But we should also acknowledge that this supernatural demonic work is not only a phenomenon that happened ages ago, but the devil is still active in these ways today.

He is particularly active in places where people use supernatural means to look into things God has not revealed to them. In parts of the world, it is common for people to seek answers from spirits, the dead, and so on. They open themselves and their homes and their minds to the devil and his demons. This is most common in places like Africa and Haiti. But in just the past few years, Christian church bodies in Europe have had to train many of their clergy to deal with demonic activity, because of the dramatic increase of those occurrences.

There is no question demonic activity happens here in the U.S. Through seances, Ouija boards, divination, spells, and so on people open themselves and their homes up to these attacks of the devil, which is manifested by home infestations, mental attacks, and even physical attacks, and in more rare cases demon possession.

The answer to the man possessed by a demon was Jesus and His Word. So also it is today. Jesus and His mighty word is the answer to the demonic supernatural activity today.

But what is the other activity of the devil that was taking place in our text? While some of the people were accusing Jesus of casting out demons by the authority of the prince of demons, it was really in the people observing Jesus that the devil was working causing them to blaspheme and test Him.

And this work of the devil is more deadly than any supernatural manifestation he could muster. It was through lies and deceptions that he caused Adam and Eve to fall into sin, and under the just wrath of God. He has brought all hearts and minds under the darkness of unbelief, so that the state of mankind is as Paul describes, “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.… There is no fear of God before their eyes.” It is the devil’s work that people do not believe in Christ, but rather believe in lies about Him, and that say all sorts of falsehood about Him. They say that He is in league with Satan. They say that Jesus was merely a good teacher. They say that His death had no atoning benefit for us. They deny His resurrection. They speak evil of the Church, which He purchased with His own blood, which He sanctified through water, and made one with Himself. They are so blinded that they refuse to believe in Him. They tested Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, though they have seen numerous irrefutable signs of His divinity. Against the witness of their own eyes and ears they reject Him. Against the sure word of Scripture, they reject Jesus and His salvation.

With the evil in their hearts, they shouted for the death of the Lord of Life crying out, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.” And they continue to oppose Christ and His Church, and they strive against all righteousness, such as you see in the bloodlust of the pro-abortion cause.

Under the power of the devil, and his lies and deceit, they remain under God’s wrath, and are on the path to eternal destruction.

We need to be on guard against the lies and deceit of the devil, the heresies about Christ and His salvation. For by Satan’s lies and deceit, he tries to lead us into misbelief, despair, and any other shameful sin and vice. More than possessing you, and afflicting you mentally or physically, he wants to put doubt in your mind about Christ and His Word, so that you may be separated from your Savior, and suffer hell eternally. Thus, he says, Christ is really not your Savior. You must accomplish your salvation. He is not your Lord. You are your own lord. That is real freedom. He tries to get you to question Christ’s love for you, pointing you to all your difficulties in life and saying, “I guess you’re on your own.”

The devil is not going to work against himself. He and his house, and all his demons are against you. If he’s got you imprisoned, he’s going to keep it that way. If not, he’s trying with all his might to bind you in the darkness of unbelief. He is the strong man, and we lack the powers to fight.

The devil will not topple his own kingdom. But Christ toppled it. Jesus is the stronger man, who has overcome the devil. By His death on the cross and His resurrection, He has done away with sin, He crushed the serpent’s head, and defeated death.

And it is the Word of Christ that frees us from bondage. In your baptism, which is the Word connected with water, an exorcism took place. Satan was cast from the throne of your hearts. His hold on you which blinded you in unbelief was released. Christ pictures it for us in baptism. In baptism, He comes to you, finds you in Satan’s house, with the water, He claims you as His own, and takes you away to Himself that you may know Him and be cleansed of your sin, and have life in His kingdom.

So then as we live in our baptismal waters, that is as we live the life of repentance of our sins, and receiving by faith Christ’s Word of forgiveness, and the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper that unites us with our living Christ, the devil cannot harm us. In the watery places of baptism, in which God’s believers live, the devil cannot touch us.

And so today receiving the Word of Christ, the devil is again cast away from us. Even if you have fallen for the lies of the devil. Even if you have fallen victim to him, bound and chained, hear now, you are forgiven all of your sins on account of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, and thus you are freed! You are the spoils of the victory Christ has won. And not only do you have that Word that delivers you, but you also have here for you the true body and blood of Christ! You are united with the Lord, who by that very body and blood conquered the devil!

Blessed, indeed are we, who hear the word of God, and keep it! That is, blessed are we who by the gift of God’s grace repent of our sins and receive by faith, the good news of Christ’s forgiveness. By that Word, we are saved from sin, death, and the devil.

We are saved, then to live as God’s people, who know Him, who love Him, who delight in His Word, and who live in righteousness as lights in the world glorifying our Father in heaven.

And so we pray, that the stronger man, Jesus Christ, would preserve us in His conquering Word, and that His Word may also free many who remain under the captivity of the devil. May our Lord, Jesus, increase His spoils to the glory of His name and to the shame of the defeated one! Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now , and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.


Sermon – Matthew 15.21-28 (Lent 2 – 2021)

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, grant us, we beseech You, by Your Holy Spirit, that He may strengthen our hearts and confirm our faith and hope in Your grace and mercy, so that, although we have reason to fear because of our conscience, our sin, and our unworthiness, we may nevertheless, with the woman of Canaan, hold fast to Your grace, and in every trial and temptation find You a present help and refuge; through Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

  21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.  22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”  23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”  24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”  26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

These are Your words heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

God’s Will Be Done Through Trials

Dear fellow redeemed,

It’s a dreadful trial this Canaanite woman was going through. Her daughter was suffering from demon possession. We don’t know the details in this specific case. In other examples of demon possession in Scripture, we hear people exhibiting superhuman strength, and practicing divination, and foretelling the future. The spirit may cause muteness and blindness. They might make their subjects seize. They might throw the bodies of their host into harm such as into fire or water aiming to kill him or her. We only know by the description of the mother was that it was very severe case of demon possession.

It is heart-wrenching for any parent to see their child suffering so greatly. And with compassion we look upon that Canaanite woman.

It is right to be disappointed in the disciples for not showing compassion on the woman. They just wanted to send this Canaanite woman away. It is certain that Jesus, our God of love and mercy, was moved with compassion for the woman. However, for a time He doesn’t show His compassion in order that He may test and strengthen her faith.

God allows trials to enter our lives, but as we endure them, we ought to remember that our Lord is merciful and loving. He has compassion on us in all our afflictions. And like a loving Father, He grieves at our afflictions. Yet, He seeks to turns those trials into blessings for us. He has good purposes behind those trials that He allows to come upon us. And one of the purposes of our trials is to repent, admit our sin and weakness, and go to Him for our help and salvation.

The woman in our text is a great example of one who was well taught by God through trial. What is this example? First, she didn’t trick herself into thinking that she was capable of handling it on her own. She recognized her own weakness and helplessness. Secondly, she looked to Christ for her aid. And how she apprehended Him is of particular importance to us. Therefore, through this trial, the Lord strengthens her, her faith is proved, and Jesus is amazed by her faith.

The woman’s daughter was possessed by a demon. Now, there are many sorts of trials people go through. Some are more difficult than others. Some make us feel more helpless than others. This trial that this mother was going through was a helpless situation. What These trials remind us of our sin, of our mortality, of our weakness. In this instance the woman is brought to the realization of the power of the devil. It had such a hold on her daughter, and there wasn’t anything she could do about it. She had to turn to one who could help.

Likewise, in our trials, we should allow ourselves to be reminded of our sin, our mortality, our weakness, and the strength of our enemies such as the devil, the strength of sin, and its hold that it wants to have on us.

Yet how often do we struggle through a trial without acknowledging these things? How often do we miss the opportunities to be reminded to learn of our weaknesses? How often do we push through an affliction in our lives without repentance for our sins. For our lives are full of idols upon which we lean. Our lives are full of things we look for our help as god. We have a tendency to overestimate our own strength and might and reason and abilities. We are full of pride, thinking that we have the strength to handle everything. We might push through a trial with the goal to show how strong we are. When that famous quote is used, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” how often is the focus on the first part “I can do all things,” and not the second which says that it is Christ who strengthens us to endure trials.

The Canaanite woman could have thought, I need to do something to fix this. Or I need to contribute something to solving this bad situation. I must show myself worthy in order to seek and get the help of Jesus. But she didn’t think or act in this way at all. Instead, despaired of her own strength, looked to Christ, and pleaded upon the mercy of Christ.

So when we suffer health troubles, suffer family conflicts, when we suffer the death of loved ones, the loss of a job, etc., learn from your trials, repent, and recognize your weakness, the strength of your enemies, and that your help must come from outside of you.

Your help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. This is where the Canaanite woman turned. She turned to Jesus, whom she knew to be the Lord, the Son of David, the Messiah. But notice how she apprehends Him, how she looks to Him, and trusts Him. She relies upon the word about Him being merciful and kind. She doesn’t take hold of what she sees. She sees her Lord ignoring her, slighting her, and insulting her. But she apprehends Him by what she hears about Him in the Word. She knows that He has come for the salvation not just of the Jews, but also for the world. She knows that He is merciful and is compassionate to her, because of the Word. And so on account of that Word she prays to Him, for He has the power and authority over the devil. This is the faith that impressed Jesus. She did not base her beliefs about Jesus upon her circumstances in life.

Let us learn from this, because how often do we fail to use our Lord’s name in prayer, to come to Him in our every need? Perhaps you think that your troubles mean that God does not love you. That is a lie. Many will use affliction and trial as a reason to separate themselves from God, to turn from Him, and to neglect His Word. How many people think that they need to straighten out their lives on their own two feet first before they can come to church, and before they can come to God in prayer.

But draw near to God, open your ears to God’s Word in trial, and call upon His name. Do not doubt whether He is listening to you, or whether He cares about you. Even if He seems to be distant, and is not paying any mind you and your trials, trust what the Word of God says about His love for you.

He was crucified for you to save you from sin, death, and the devil! He gave up His life into death on the cross so that you may have eternal life with Him. What great love He has for you. Surely He has compassion on you in all your in all your trials.

He might miraculously help you in your troubles. Often He gives you people to help you in your need, family, friends, your pastor, your brothers and sisters in the congregation. And always, He gives you what you have already been given in your baptism. He gives you His Holy Spirit through His Word, to comfort you and strengthen you, that you knowing you are weak rest in the strength and love of God, which will never fail you.

Therefore, see that God uses these trials to draw us closer to Him and to strengthen our faith. Through them He kicks out from underneath us every idol we may depend on, and every bit of self-reliance. We find that they do not help us, and that we are weaker than we think. He shows us that we need Him to be our Lord. And so we repent, and turn to the promises of God’s Word. Clinging to them, we cling to Christ. He is our strength, our rock, and our refuge.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son…


Sermon – Matthew 4.1-11 (Lent 1 – 2021)

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, inasmuch as the adversary does continually afflict us, and as a roaring lion walks about, seeking to devour us: We beseech You for the sake of the suffering and death of Your Son, Jesus Christ, to help us by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and to strengthen our hearts by Your Word, that our enemy may not prevail over us, but that we may evermore abide in Your grace, and be preserved unto everlasting life; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.  

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.

 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

 4 But He answered and said, “It is written,`Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”

 5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple,

 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:`He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and,`In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'”

 7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again,`You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'”

 8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.

 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”

 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written,`You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'”

 11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed,

St. Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (6:16).

Scripture calls the temptations of the devil fiery darts. Luther picks this language up in the Large Catechism when he writes about the sixth petition, in which we pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” He writes, “Then comes the devil, inciting and provoking in all directions, but especially agitating matters that concern the conscience and spiritual affairs, namely, to induce us to despise and disregard both the Word and works of God, to tear us away from faith, hope, and love, and bring us into misbelief, false security, and obduracy, or, on the other hand, to despair, denial of God, blasphemy, and innumerable other shocking things. These are indeed snares and nets, yea, real fiery darts which are shot most venomously into the heart, not by flesh and blood, but by the devil.”

But then when we consider Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness, we might be prone to think, “But it’s Jesus. He’s the Son of God. Those fiery darts of the devil deflect off him as though He were made of steel. They don’t phase Him a bit.”

Certainly as true God, He has all power and authority over Satan. If He was in that wilderness in glory, sure the darts wouldn’t have fazed Him. He wouldn’t have been hungry. Wouldn’t have need angels ministering to Him. And the devil wouldn’t get a single syllable out of his mouth before Christ would cast Him away. But Jesus didn’t come to flex His divine might.

Rather He came in humility, as man to save man. He was willingly born in humility, lived in humility, and suffered in humility. He was willingly born under the Law, lived under the Law and suffered under the Law. He did battle against Satan here in weakness. According to His divinity, He is the Judge and He is Righteousness, but He did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that He might save the world. Thus He was born under the Law, that He may redeem us who are under the Law.

Thus see Christ in battle. Yes, He is fully God, but He did not use His divine might. It was hidden. You see there instead Christ doing battle for you in the frailty of His human flesh, though He did not have a sinful nature.

And so the devil attacked. And the devil threw at Christ his fiery darts. With lies, half-truths, deceit, accusations, and perversion of God’s Word, he attacks.

You know what his attacks are like. How would you describe them? Luther said that the devil is the master of a 1000 arts. Yet, he often uses his tried and effective methods.

In fact we see a striking similarity between the tactics he used against Adam and Eve, and against Jesus. To Eve, he said, “You will be like God.” To Jesus, he said, “If you are the Son of God.” Adam and Eve had the image of God, but were not like God in knowing good and evil, but the devil tempted Eve to become like God. Jesus is the Son of God, but the devil tempted Jesus to doubt whether he is the Son of God. In both cases, he tried to get them to doubt God’s Word. For Adam and Eve, the word was God’s command to not eat of the fruit of the Knowledge of good and evil, and the threat attached to it. For Jesus, it was the Father’s words spoken 40 days earlier, “You are My beloved Son. With you I am well pleased.”

He uses the same tactics on us today. He tempts us to be like god. He tempts us to obey our desires, to trust in ourselves, to exalt ourselves in glory. He tempts us to believe that we are accountable only to ourselves, and that there is no divine punishment for sin. But to do this, he works to get us to doubt God’s Word, which says that you are not God, but God is God, and He is your Creator, the sustainer of your life, that it is His law you must obey, and if you do not there is most definitely eternal judgment for it.

But then he tempts you in the opposite way. For you are God’s baptized children, justified before God through faith. But then the devil comes along accuses you of your sins, and says, “If you are a child of God, you wouldn’t have done that.” Or he takes your trials and struggles in life, and says, “If you are a child of God, you wouldn’t be suffering so greatly.” And so he strives to get us to doubt God’s Word, which declares us God’s baptized people.

And so those fiery darts of the devil pierce us. We fall. We obey our sinful desires rather than God. Our love for God falls short. We put our trust in ourselves. We sometimes act as though there is no consequences for our sins. And then the devil accuses us and gets us to doubt. And these fiery darts would most certainly conquer us, if not for our Champion who enters into battle for us.

This wasn’t a chance meeting here between Jesus and the devil. Jesus followed the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for the very purpose of doing battle against the devil for us. And so, as one who was under the Law, He kept it for you. Man wanted to be God, but God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the the form of a bondservant, and thus he hungered 40 days and 40 nights, and trusted His Father. Man doubted God’s Word, but Jesus stood firmly upon the Word, saying, “Thus it is written.” Jesus emerged from the battle victorious. He remained perfect under the Law. This was not the final victory over the devil. This took place at Jesus death, for Scripture says, “By His death, He destroyed the one who has the power of death, that is the devil.” But here He remained the unblemished Lamb who would be sacrificed for us. Plus, His perfection under the demands and threats of the Law, earned for us a righteousness that justifies us before God.

And so what does that mean for us? The great American theologian Walther used the picture of David and Goliath. The Philistines stood on one side of a valley, and Saul and his army stood on the other side. Then the giant of frightening size came forward from the Philistine army, and he mocked God and God’s people. He challenged anyone of the Israelites in a duel. If the Israelite won, the Philistines would be become servants to them. If Goliath won, the Israelites would then become servants to the Philistines. Everyone of the Israelites feared Goliath, and no one would come forward. Goliath insulted the Israelites for 40 days, until the unassuming David arrived to the battleground. Trusting in God, he challenged the giant. With one stone, David fell the giant.

Satan, the giant had been harassing mankind in this fallen wilderness, and no one was equal to him to challenge him. But the lowly and unassuming servant, Christ, came and conquered the devil!

Those who still serve sin remain under the power of the devil, and have no part in Christ’s victory. Walther said, “If you want to be eternally blessed by the battle of your Savior your heavenly General, nothing more is demanded of you and all men than that you play the part of a believing spectator [as those who watched on as David defeated Goliath]. The important thing is not that you learn how to fight against sin and Satan from Christ’s example but the first, most important, the main things is that you learn to believe that Christ battles for you, in your place, for your freedom and salvation. Whoever knows and feels his sins, whoever knows that hitherto he has served the devil, that he was full of unbelief, contempt of God’s Word, pride, vanity, lust, and love of the world, or that he at least has not really battled against the world, flesh, and Satan, let him merely look to his Savior; this Champion from the stem of David has held the field for us; this Lion from the tribe of Judah has conquered for us. Though you may have fallen ever so deeply, though you may have even begged the devil’s pardon, free yourself form this disgraceful tyranny. Side with Christ; then you are victor over sin and hell; then Christ also divides the spoils of war with you, forgiveness of sins, righteousness, life, and salvation.”

All the devil’s work is come unravelled, when you receive by faith Christ’s Word of forgiveness and receive His Sacrament. Every spiritual hurt that the devil inflicts upon you with his fiery darts is healed by Christ’s forgiveness.

And this the beginning of your battle against the devil as he continues to throw his fiery darts at you. It is faith which trusts that Christ has already won the battle, that you live as God’s people. But then you also have the word.

There’s reverence for a weapon that was lethal against enemies in the fight for good. You might see the sword of a famous general in a museum. The weapon that Christ used to take down the devil was the Word of God. This Word is not an artifact, but it is the living and powerful Word of God that still causes the devil and his minions to flee and scatter today.

So with faith in Christ and prayer to our heavenly Father and the powerful Word of God, we live in the fallen world, fighting a battle against the devil which has already been won. The forgiveness, righteousness, and eternal life are already ours in Christ. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.


Sermon – Matthew 3.13-17 (Baptism of Our Lord – 2020)

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, You manifested Yourself, with the Holy Spirit, in the fullness of grace at the baptism of Your dear Son, and with Your voice directed us to Him who has borne our sins, that we might receive grace and the remission of sins: Keep us, we beseech You, in the true faith; and inasmuch as we have been baptized in accordance with Your command, and the example of Your dear Son, we pray You to strengthen our faith by Your Holy Spirit, and lead us to everlasting life and salvation; through Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.

 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

 15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.

 16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.

 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed,

A fool says in his heart there is no God.” These are the words of David in the Psalms. God exists. We can see from nature with all its ordered complexities that it cannot come about by random chance, but that it must have been created by an intelligent and omnipotent being. Furthermore, the natural law written on our hearts and our consciences bear witness to the fact that there is a Law-giving God who created us. There are many more arguments for the existence of God, but those are unnecessary. His existence is simply a matter of fact.

Though there are an increasing number of atheists in our country, the large majority of people believe in a personal divine being. And with the majority of people coming to this correct conclusion, we can arrive at another easy conclusion, I am not God, and you are not God.

But too few seriously consider the next logical questions. Who is God? And what does He think of me? How do I stand before Him? Those are vitally important questions, aren’t they?

We have, by God’s grace, come to know the answers to these questions. But we must always be reminded of these things, that we may more firmly be established in the truth, that we may be refreshed in God’s love and forgiveness, and strengthened to boldly live as God’s children in the world. The gospel reading today is a great meditation on these questions.

First, we’ll just briefly consider who God is, but then we’ll focus more on what are His thoughts toward us and how we stand before Him?

In our Gospel reading, we have a vivid picture of who God is. He reveals Himself as three distinct Persons. The Father speaks from heaven. The Son is coming up from the water after having been baptized. The Holy Spirit comes down in the form of a dove. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father. As the three Persons are present at Jesus’ baptism, they were also present in your baptism. For Jesus, before His ascension, commanded His Church to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

But we do not worship three God’s, but one God as He says about Himself in Scripture, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is One.” And as Jesus said about Himself and the Father, “I and the Father are One.” Certainly, the Holy Spirit is One with the Father and the Son as well. Nothing expresses this more clearly that the Athanasian Creed.

This is the mystery of the Trinity, our one true God. The very nature of God is beyond our comprehension. And this is fittingly so. He is Creator, we are His creation. He is infinite. We are finite. He is boundless in His might, in His wisdom, in His immensity, in His majesty, and in His glory. And we are severely limited…

…especially, since we have become alienated from God on account of our sin. The perfection we had is lost. The image of God, which we had, is gone. We have been corrupted. We have become mortal. We have fallen under God’s judgment. Consider our selfishness, our lust, our worldliness, our pride, our sinful anger, our impatience, our lack of love for our neighbor, and so on.

How would we stand before our righteous Creator? Well, the Psalmist says, “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquity, who could stand?” We all fall under the righteous judgment of God.  John recognizes his own sinfulness. He had been preaching repentance. And He had been baptizing with a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He knew that he himself was a sinner as all the rest of the people whom he was baptizing. And so he thought that it was completely backwards that Jesus, the Son of God made flesh, who is perfect and righteous, would come to him to be baptized. This was a baptism for sinners.

But then we see what God’s attitude toward us is when we consider the purpose of Jesus’ baptism. Jesus insists on being baptized, because they must fulfill all righteousness. John must perform his part as being the one called by God to baptize. And Jesus fulfills His part by submitting Himself to the baptism. And by submitting Himself to be baptized, He takes up the work by which He becomes our righteousness so that we may stand before God.

In Jesus’ baptism, we see the will of the Triune God. It’s mindboggling that God would be mindful of us. He who is all glorious and mighty and just, could easily and rightfully judged us have wiped out us rebellious, mortal sinners in His just wrath. Such love and mercy from almighty God, the Creator, that could reach down to us sinners is beyond comprehension.

The Father doesn’t just kindly wish us well, but gives His own Son to be the world’s redeemer. It is the Father’s will that His Son not only assume a human nature, but that He, being perfect in Himself, also take upon Himself all the sins and guilt of the world, including all of your sins and mine. He takes them in order that He take accountability for them all, and that He would be the one to fall under the Father’s judgment for those sins, suffering and dying for them. And He also sent His Son to live under the Law, keeping it perfectly, so that His righteousness would justify the world in His sight.

The Father sent His Son to accomplish this. And the Son obeyed, subjecting Himself to baptism, taking on the work of fulfilling all righteousness. He steps onto the path to the cross to be our sacrificial Lamb and to fall under the punishment of the Father’s righteous judgment that you and I may be saved from our sins, from death, and from the devil. In love for you, He does this, and in obedience to His Father He does this. And because of His obedience, the Father expresses His pleasure towards His Son at the Jordan River.

And then the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ. The Holy Spirit anointed Christ into His saving office, that He may be our Great Prophet, Priest, and King. Thus what Isaiah spoke 700 years earlier is fulfilled, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…” (Is 61:1). Jesus already had the fullness of the Holy Spirit according to His divine nature, being One with Him. But here the Holy Spirit comes to Christ, according to His human nature, to lead Him throughout His ministry, and endow Him with the strength needed for the work ahead of Him.

Look at what takes place at the Jordan River! And there see what the God of heaven and earth, the one true God’s will is towards you. At Jesus’ baptism, we see God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, fully invested in the work of your salvation.

But then look at your own baptism, and how personal that love of God is for you

At your baptism, that saving mercy and love of God came to bear upon you in your life. There the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was present in your baptism. There the Father adopted you as His dear child, for He says in Scripture, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal 3:26-27).

How could this be since we daily offend Him with our sins? Baptism connects you to the saving work of Christ. Christ, in His baptism, took your sins, and took upon Himself the Father’s wrath. Through your baptism, your sins are taken away, and you are able to stand before God, sinless in His sight, clothed in the righteousness of Christ. This forgiveness and righteousness of Christ given you in baptism remains yours through faith in Christ.

And through baptism, you are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. He creates and preserves in you faith. He dwells in you, and guides and leads you through life as a child of God, and endows you in your weakness with the strength to live as God’s people in this wilderness.

God exists! And how blessed it is to know Him, and to know His grace and mercy toward us! What a joy it is to say, “I am baptized into Christ.” God keep us in this baptismal grace always. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.


Sermon – Luke 8.4-15 (Sexagesima – 2021)

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank You that through Your Son Jesus Christ You have sown Your holy Word among us: We pray that You will prepare our hearts by Your Holy Spirit, that we may diligently and reverently hear Your Word, keep it in good hearts, and bring forth fruit with patience; and that we may not incline to sin, but subdue it by Your power, and in all persecutions comfort ourselves with Your grace and continual help; through Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

4 And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable:

 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it.

 6 “Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture.

 7 “And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it.

 8 “But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

 9 Then His disciples asked Him, saying, “What does this parable mean?”

 10 And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that`Seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand.’

 11 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.

 12 “Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.

 13 “But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.

 14 “Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.

 15 “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.

These are Your Words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed,

Last week I talked about God working out His gracious election from eternity through the ministry of the Word.

We know words are powerful. You can think of books or speeches where words inspire or deceive. Words rile people up and they calm them down. Words encourage, and words can really hurt. It’s not the sound of the words that do this, but rather the meaning those words carry.

Yet, what man’s word is able to do pales in comparison to what God’s Word is capable of doing. God’s Word has the power to create all things out of nothing. All creation, what we see and what we don’t see, God made out of nothing through the might of His Word. God’s Word has the power to turn the packed and impenetrable soil of unbelieving hearts into good soil, that is, hearts that repents, believes in the gospel of Christ with a faith that is active in works, as Ezekiel wrote, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ez 36:26). God accomplishes this with the power of His Word.

The Word of God gives eternal salvation, as Paul says in Romans, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for all who believe.” His Word is not powerful because of a specific string of vowels and consonants, but it is powerful because of the truths that those words carry. The words of Law carry the judgment of God, and the words of gospel carry all the heavenly gifts that Christ has won by His perfect life and innocent death on the cross.

All the works of the world put together cannot justify a single person on earth. But the Word of God carries with it the justifying forgiveness and righteousness of Christ. The Word declares you justified, righteous before God!

And so God, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, sows His Word, casting it all throughout the world. His Word goes out to powerfully accomplish His will as our Old Testament reading says, “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

And so all glory goes to God working out His gracious election through the Word, as the Word accomplishes His will. Glory be to God for conversions to the Christian faith and the perseverance in the faith, for the justification of sinners, for the good works that flow from faith, and for the blessed end, by which the believer is brought into heavenly glory.

Yet, we know that not all are converted. Many fall from the faith. And this is not on account of God at all, but because of the sin and unbelief.

Through the Word, God has given us to hear His Word. He has made us good soil to receive His mighty word with repentance and faith. And thus, we have all the spiritual blessings the Word carries with it. Yet, the sinful flesh remains with us, and it must continually be dealt with, lest we be overcome by hardness of heart, rocks, or thorns. So you who have ears to hear, hear.

Some of the seed has fallen on the wayside, the path. This depicts those who never come to faith in the first place. Like the soil of a path that is packed down, and hard, the seed cannot penetrate the soil. So also, there are those who hear the word, but because of the hardness of their heart, the Word does not penetrate into the heart of the hearer. They hear it and they think that it is enough for them just for the Word to enter their ears, but they do not heed the words. They do not repent, they do not take hold of Christ, their Savior. They do not follow Him as their Lord.

Is there not that same tendency in our sinful flesh? The Word enters our ears, but the sinful flesh would rather remain indifferent to it. Sure, I’ll go to church, I’ll listen to the word from time to time, but it will enter my ears, but it will stop there. I would rather not be moved to repent of my sins. I would rather not have Jesus as my Savior or as my Lord, but I will do both. God grant us ears to hear this warning, that we be moved to repent of our indifference to the Word.

Some of the seeds fall on rocky soil. The Word is sowed and received into the ears and also into the heart of the person. The gospel of Christ is received with joy. But when the heat of the sun beats down on the plant, that when the trials and temptations of life bear down on the person, his faith withers and dies. The trials and temptations are not to blame for their fall from faith. For many God uses the temptations and trials help strengthen and purify faith. What, then, is the cause of the loss of faith? It is the shallow soil. It is the shallow faith, perhaps a faith that rests more upon the good feelings of being saved, rather than the promises of God’s salvation whether felt or not.

May God crush the rocks in our hearts, for we have the rocky weakness of the flesh, that would flee when being a Christian becomes difficult. We live according to the will of God, but then we suffer because of it. The denial of self and following Christ is not easy. The godless culture presses harder upon us. It would be easier to deny Christ. And so let this warning convict your hearts, and repent of your weakness. And trust the promises of Christ, including the promises of forgiveness, for these promises will not fail! Know that the sufferings of this present time are worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in you in the day of Jesus Christ! May God plant our roots firmly and deeply in these promises.

Finally, some of the seeds fall on thorny soil. The Word enters the ears and hearts of a person. It looks promising, the faith begins to flourish, but the thorns and weeds eventually grow, that is the cares, pleasures and riches of life. These choke out faith.

Like the trials and temptations, it’s not the cares, riches and pleasures that are to blame for the loss of faith, but rather the thorny soil is to blame. It is the heart that loves the world, with all its riches and pleasures. This is a description of our hearts isn’t it? Where do we place our source of happiness? Do we look for it in the things, riches and pleasures of the world? Is it in having a good home, a stable life, a good name in the community? Is it in enjoying the pleasures the world has to offer? Is it in being healthy? These are good things. But the threat is that our thorny hearts make these things our gods, so that our worldly hearts choke out faith in God.

And so, may this warning enter your ears and pierce your hearts that you repent of the worldliness of your hearts, that every weed may be killed, and so that faith in God may not be smothered by the love for the world, as it did to Demas, who was a co-worker with Paul in the ministry, and of whom Paul said, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.

But then receive that Word of Gospel, which powerfully forgives you your sins, saves you, strengthens your faith, and implants itself in your hearts more firmly, so that it may produce in you the fruits of heavenly joy, peace with God, a godly life, a bold confidence resting in God’s promises, and a heart that clings firmly to Christ your Lord and Savior.

It is not just a string of letters, but it is the truth of God’s Word which not only carries meaning and information, but carries with it the very forgiveness and salvation for which Christ gave up His life.

And therefore, rejoice in the Word cast upon you! For it is God’s good and gracious will for you that it enter into your ears, and be received into your hearts for your eternal salvation. You are forgiven all of your sins for the sake of Jesus’ death on the cross for you. Every hardness, rock, and thorn in your heart is removed for His sake. He will guard and keep you through the heat of every trial and temptation, for you are God’s dear redeemed people. You live each day under His love, and every heavenly blessing is yours. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.